||Posted: Oct. 22 2011,14:07
Here’s a bit of history.
On Sept. 19, 2000, 12 months before the twin towers fell in New York, The Hamilton Spectator devoted a page to a new idea from the United Nations. “The nature of a ‘Culture of Peace.’ Can it come to Hamilton? How can it make a difference?”
Among the 10 positive messages in the paper that day, the president of the Hamilton Chamber of Commerce wrote: “May I be the first of our 1,700 members representing 1,150 businesses and organizations employing 75,000 people to give you my pledge?”
At the start of this millennium there was plenty of optimism. The world held its breath in the hope that the new century would not be blemished by the great wars that had blighted the lives of so many families and loved ones in the century before.
In Paris, a group of Nobel Peace Prize laureates drafted six simple principles to help create peace. The United Nations General Assembly proclaimed the year 2000 the International Year for the Culture of Peace, and declared the ten years 2001 to 2010 the International Decade for the Culture of Peace. The Six Principles were published under the title, Manifesto 2000.
Although 75 million people around the world pledged to follow these principles, few North Americans or Europeans really heard about them. Within a few short months, the messages of peace and nonviolence were obliterated by a devastating attack on the U.S., wars in Afghanistan and Iraq, and a spreading culture of fear.
In Hamilton, a number of individuals staunchly supported the UN initiative from the beginning. A group, called Culture of Peace Hamilton, decided to spread the manifesto’s six principles and apply them locally. Their concept of peace was not limited to wars between nations, but included the reduction of violence at home. For more than 10 years, a nucleus of these hopeful people has attempted to build a local Culture of Peace by linking up with other Hamilton organizations that address such problems as poverty, hunger, ecology, sexism and violence. Though the word “peace” may not be how most people see their work, it is the combination of these efforts that show us what a culture of peace really is.
Unlike most rules and commandments, which largely tell people what not to do, Manifesto’s six principles make positive suggestions about what needs to be done. Unlike most UN documents these principles are not addressed to nations or powerful leaders, but to all the peoples of the world. The first is a good example:
Respect All Life: Respect the life and dignity of each human being without discrimination or prejudice.
Imagine what might happen if these ideas were truly promoted in every church, temple or religious institution. Or take another principle:
Reject Violence: Practise active nonviolence, rejecting violence in all its forms: physical, sexual, psychological, economical and social, in particular toward the most deprived and vulnerable such as children and adolescents.
Behaviour like this could really change attitudes toward bullying, or the violence that affects deprived areas such as those revealed in the Code Red series.
Other principles include Preserve the Planet, Listen to Understand, Share with Others and Rediscover Solidarity.
To honour this first decade of local peace-building, Culture of Peace Hamilton is hosting a big celebration on Monday, Oct. 24, United Nations’ Day. This is a public event that includes art, music, speech and food. It will start at 7 p.m. at the First Unitarian Church of Hamilton, 170 Dundurn St. S. Everyone is welcome and admission is free.
The program features the première of a new song, Peace is in Your Hands, with lyrics and music composed by Rachel Derry, performed by an adult, youth and children’s choir.
Six local personalities, Terry Cooke, Milé Komlen, Cathy Pead, Katie Stiel, Wilf Ruland and Don Wells will each represent one of the Six Principles by showing how their day-to-day activity links with the Manifesto. Joy Warner and Graeme MacQueen will facilitate, and Hamilton Councillor Judi Partridge will represent the mayor. Other performers include young Indian dancer Lamia Syed, plus Simon D’Abreau, Melanie Skene and Stephen Hudecki.
For more information contact: Gail Rappolt at firstname.lastname@example.org or 905-527-0470, or go to cultureofpeacehamilton.com.
Ray Cunnington writes on peace issues. He lives in Dundas.